Rules of Estrangement
Danny Lavery: This ad free podcast is part of your slate Plus membership. Lucky you. And. Hello and welcome back to Take Nude. A little nude. I’m your host, Danny Lavery. And with me in the studio this week is Marie Manner, who works as a research and development data scientist and enjoys mentoring, volunteering and teaching in STEM. Murray, welcome to the show.
Marie Manner: Thank you very much, Danny. It is an absolute pleasure to be here.
Danny Lavery: I’m so glad. I also really appreciated your immediate reply after I sent you the questions, which was, There’s nothing about data in here and I’m truly sorry. I tried as hard as I could, but no one had any data related problems.
Marie Manner: I have been ready while I’m reading these questions to work in some kind of graphing or data related anything, but I’m kind of coming up empty, so that’s a bummer, but maybe more interesting for everybody else. That is not me.
Danny Lavery: I mean, I’m just going to maybe keep you on on call now in case I get a future question. And then I just say like, do you think graphing would help?
Marie Manner: The answer is probably yes. I always think the graphing would help. There’s nothing like a good graph. Lots of colors, dots.
Danny Lavery: Do you have like a general, like kind of catch all advice for people who might want to incorporate more graphs into their life? Like where would you recommend that they start? Like my obviously my thought first goes to Chore wheels.
Marie Manner: But as a human without kids, I have no idea if that would help things. I don’t know. I’ve never done a chore wheel in my life, so maybe.
Danny Lavery: I never have either. Or at least not since I was myself a child. But I feel like you do occasionally hear that from people with like sort of contentious roommate relationships, maybe where no one’s just sort of like pitching in and doing their share and everyone’s sort of begrudgingly staring at the sink, counting up how many dishes everyone else has contributed.
Marie Manner: I mean, I’ve definitely guilty of that, but it’s kind of an easy fix. You just put them in the dishwasher, that’s fine.
Danny Lavery: The damn dishes. Although I feel like whenever I was in a time in my life where all my roommates and I were convinced we were all doing the dishes the most, we didn’t have a dishwasher, which was, you know, 9/10 of the problem because, I mean, you’d have to get into the sink. And once the sink reaches a certain level of fullness, dishwashing becomes, you know, how do I remove dirty dishes from the sink, stack them somewhere so that there’s enough room to wash the remaining dishes and then.
Marie Manner: Put the encore back.
Danny Lavery: In? It’s like a whole thing. You got to basically clean every surface afterwards.
Marie Manner: You are bringing me back to undergraduate. That sounds like a nightmare, and I have had to do that for one year of my life and it was not the funnest.
Danny Lavery: I had a house kind of like that in my mid-twenties in San Francisco. But one upside was almost everyone worked at like a Starbucks or a Panera Bread at the time, so our fridge was just full of end of day free food and awesome. I was just living on those Starbucks breakfast sandwiches for a solid year of my life.
Marie Manner: That sounds like a really good bonus of having roommates that work in food stuffs. Yeah.
Danny Lavery: No dishes, but a bunch of nearly expired corporate food.
Marie Manner: And probably lots of garbage. So you just get to argue over taking garbage out instead of doing dishes.
Danny Lavery: We were probably all doing close to our best. At any rate, how are you? How’s how’s your day go? And how are you feeling about these questions?
Marie Manner: I am good. It is. We were talking a little bit earlier. It’s almost 20 degrees here where I am, which is I love it. It’s good. I’m looking forward to it. Getting colder by 40 degrees in a couple of days.
Danny Lavery: That’s very cold.
Marie Manner: Yeah, it’s not great, but I feel good about the questions again, no graphing, but they seem fine. I have very short answers for the first two, which I think is probably good.
Danny Lavery: I have a very short answer for our third one, which is an incredibly long letter and I think needs to be balanced out by a shorter answer. So I think that’s a good ratio for the two of us. Perfect. Okay, beautiful. Well, that I will take our first letter and then we can figure out what answer to give this person. So the subject is aspiring estranging, which I really like trying to make like estranged person take off like divorce say so maybe it’s astrology would be the equivalent, but someone who wants to become a strange. Yeah.
Marie Manner: Out of fancy French flair.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, it’s good sense, whatever it is. I’m in my late twenties and I’ve been in therapy for a few years now for anxiety, shame and self-esteem issues as well as a history of abusive relationships. My therapist attributes this to childhood emotional neglect and authoritarian parenting on the part of my father. My father is an emotionally repressed narcissist who has never taken an active role in my life. He gaslit me, shamed me, criticized me. He constantly called me lazy, ungrateful, entitled. He met my material needs, but there was no emotional intimacy, acceptance or love.
Danny Lavery: The final straw came at my recent wedding. I chose to walk down the aisle with my now husband instead of my father. I later learned that he’d been complaining during the weekend about this and the fact that I share very little of my life with him to my friends, my in-laws, or anyone he could find. He left the wedding early. This filled me with anger and sorrow, particularly when contrasted with the generosity and kindness of my husband’s family. I don’t want my father in my life. I simply don’t like him as a person. And I’ve come to realize that he’ll never be who I. Need him to be. We text every couple of months and see each other maybe twice a year. Even this is too much for me though. How can I estrange myself from him knowing that he’ll never accept my version of reality when there’s no big reason? Just a lot of things missing. He’ll see the estrangement as if I’m trying to hurt him when really, I’m just trying to protect myself from someone who lacks the ability to love me for who I really am.
Danny Lavery: Shall we start with your short answer and then see if there’s anything that we want to add on top of it?
Marie Manner: Yeah. So my short answer is it’s going to be very easy. If you already don’t talk very often, you just continue to not talk. So instead of that one phone call, six months from now, you just don’t. I’m a person that is happily estranged from my father, so I find it very easy. I think the letter writer will find us to be a pretty good back chorus of Yeah, go ahead and get it. Strange. That’s great. You’re in. Love it.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. You know, unsurprisingly, I also I felt, first of all, like this letter writer already seems pretty clear that she wants to become a strange and that’s essentially less of a question of should I or can I, and more of a question of how do I do it knowing that there will be this sort of nagging feeling of, But if I become completely estranged, I’ll totally lose out on the on the hope that he will someday see things from my perspective. And I can really understand that. And I think there. Letter writer. I think I want to start with. Absolutely. You can become estranged from your father as unceremoniously as you like, and you certainly don’t have to force yourself to have any conversations with someone who kind of already has a habit of not listening to you. But I do want to throw out the possibility of a brief, maybe not a conversation, maybe just letting him know. Again, you don’t have to. If the idea of doing that sounds really awful or overwhelming. You don’t have to.
Danny Lavery: But one thing that was really sticking with me throughout this letter was this real? Again, unless there’s something that’s been left out here, there was this this this long list of deep, profound, emotionally devastating complaints. And I don’t mean complaints like, oh, you’re complaining too much. I just mean, you know, you have grievances. And then on the other hand, it sounds like your father. Doesn’t really know about them. And again, none of that’s to say it was your job to tell him. He couldn’t have known he was doing wrong or that you owe it to him. It just does seem to me like there’s some sort of sense of frustration of I can’t talk to him about these things because I’ll blow up maybe, or I’ll be so upset if he doesn’t listen. But I wonder if you know, and just kind of pay attention to your own response as I say this.
Danny Lavery: Does the idea of saying to your father once, I don’t want to talk anymore, you know, a brief summation of the ways that you feel like he’s let you down just so that you have said it once might feel meaningful to kind of get off your chest if you’ve already done that. And he’s just always dismissed it and you didn’t have room for it here in the letter. You certainly don’t have to do it again. But I just wonder if you might feel better if you thought, you know, once I told my father, not with the hopes of changing his mind, but just for the sake of getting it off my chest. We have a really bad relationship because you constantly belittle me and ignore me and you’re cruel to me. And I don’t want to be your kid anymore. I don’t want to have a relationship with you that might potentially feel good.
Danny Lavery: You know, when I think about my own estrangement with my own father, one thing I really regret in our final conversation, I had talked about it in advance with my partner and my therapist, and something that really came up was I wanted to tell him that I was angry with him and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And my wife Grace, was in on that call. And she had at a certain point, she wrote down the word angry is like it just a kind of like a loving reminder of like, don’t forget to say this. As a later in the conversation, she underlined it. Then later she circled and just kind of like tapped her pen a few more times. And it’s not like I still was able to do the things I needed to do. I was still able to be generally honest, but I do wish I had said it in that last conversation.
Marie Manner: So you never did.
Danny Lavery: Know I couldn’t bring myself to do it, you know, And certainly, like there was a lot going on that day and his reaction was a lot to deal with. So it’s not like I don’t wake up every morning thinking, Man, I really fucked up, but I do wish that I had said it and I don’t think he would have received it well, I don’t think it would have changed his mind. It wouldn’t have been because I thought it would have been more effective. It just would have been for the sake of saying, I’m really angry with you. I’m not just confused or concerned or disagree, I’m angry. And so with without pretending that that would make everything amazing or that it would do anything to change his mind, I wonder if you would feel better just saying it and then letting go additionally.
Marie Manner: Yeah, that sounds great. I did not take that tactic. I was on the fade away and never speak Again train. And I. I don’t feel bad about that. Joyce Letter writer does say that she’ll see the estrangement as if I’m trying to hurt him. So, yeah, maybe they have had these conversations, and, yeah, maybe in that case, it would be a super good idea to just say it again. This is not working for me. Especially. You left my wedding early, which was not seen as a gift to our letter writer. They were really upset about it, so.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. Yeah. And I want to make it really clear. I don’t think that’s going to be a magic bullet. I don’t think that’s going to make you feel amazing the next day. So really, really, the ball is very much in your court letter writer if you heard any of that and thought, Oh, you know, that might feel a little good, but sounds a little daunting. Pursue it. And if you listen to it, you just thought, that sounds miserable. I would hate that. I would feel pulled into an argument. Don’t.
Marie Manner: But we could also just write it down. So instead of having that phone call, they do exchange texts. Presumably they’ve got each other’s emails. You can maybe drop a short one for that of like, I’ve been dealing with this for a while. I don’t appreciate the way that you’ve treated me. So this is going to stop from my end. Have a nice life. So.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, and sometimes that can maybe feel like, I don’t know how would start that and then stop. And I don’t want to encourage this letter writer to send like a five page, really vulnerable, detailed letter to their father explaining, Here’s everything you’ve ever done that let me down both for your sake and because I don’t think it would do much good.
Marie Manner: But I’ll write that down and burn it.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. But I think sometimes there’s something to be said for telling the truth one time. Even if your goal is just end this relationship. So if you wanted to say is and like a truncated version of what you sent to us, which is, you know, I don’t want to talk anymore, you’ve always been cruel to me. You don’t listen to me. You’ve done X, Y, or Z. And I don’t think our relationship is going to improve. Again, that’s not like that’s not an excuse to, like, deliver a laundry list of everything he’s ever done wrong in his life.
Danny Lavery: But just to say, Here’s what’s wrong. I don’t want to talk anymore. I am letting you know I’m being clear about it. But then, you know, you can say I’m blocking your number or I’m not going to be calling again. Feel super free not to do that, but sometimes it helps. I did do that. After that final conversation. I did email my immediate family and say, you know, our relationship is over. Here’s why. You know, try to sum it up as distinctly as I could and here’s what I’m going to be doing about that, which was blocking your number, blocking your email addresses, making sure that you cannot contact me. Be well. And that did feel good. Not in the sense that it changed any of their minds. It didn’t. But I felt that sort of not closure, but a sense of I was clear. I was clear. If they want to misrepresent what I said or if they want to come up with another narrative, they might. But I gave them the information. They can never say. They have no idea.
Marie Manner: Yeah, that’s probably worth a lot. So maybe not satisfying that after. But five years, ten years from now, you can look back and say, Yeah, I did the right thing. So that would that would be a very adult, mature thing to do. But also it’s perfectly adult immature to say this doesn’t work for me and I don’t want to have that conversation. So yeah, those are two good options, I think. Right.
Danny Lavery: It also doesn’t sound like he’s a great listener. So if you feel like that would just be draining, I don’t think I would get a lot out of it. And I know he wouldn’t get anything out of it. You don’t have to. So I certainly don’t see it as a requirement. I think maybe the biggest issue here is just like, how do I do this? Knowing he’ll never accept my version of reality. I think that can be useful to flip around, which is like even if I talked to him every week for the rest of my life, which would make me miserable and be totally alienating, he still wouldn’t see things from my perspective. I could bend over backwards trying to understand him. I could give him the benefit of the doubt. Wherever possible. I could do whatever he wanted, and he still probably wouldn’t be happy with me. And so that I think, can give you a little freedom in terms of there’s nothing I could do right now short of like a pretty big internal shift in the orientation of his heart that will change the way that he sees our relationship.
Danny Lavery: And so one of the reasons that you are pursuing estrangement is because you’ve accepted we’re never going to see our relationship the same way. So it’s not that estrangement would be like putting the nail in the coffin. It’s more like estrangement is acknowledging what’s been true for a pretty long time. Because he was at your wedding, right? You didn’t ban him from your wedding, but even when you invited him, he found reasons to complain. You didn’t do more to incorporate him. He complained to other people about you on your wedding day. He left early. So even when you tried to meet him halfway, he didn’t try to meet you halfway. So if that can help sort of free you from that fantasy of if I just hold out a little bit longer, maybe we’re going to be on the same page, then I definitely want that for you.
Marie Manner: And on a similar note, you did say there’s no big reason, just a lot of things missing. There actually is a big reason. All of those things wrapped up combined into a kind of a sucky person. And that’s great to not have a sucky person in your life that all of a million of tiny things can in fact, be your big reason.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, yeah, I’m right there with you. I think there were several big reasons, you know, saying my father was never a loving presence in my life as a. Child or an adult. That’s big. That’s not just, you know. He missed a few of my recitals or he’s not great at talking about a handful of subjects like those are. That’s sort of the essence of parenthood is like a loving, nurturing presence while you are growing up. And if somebody doesn’t do that, that’s. That’s very big.
Marie Manner: Yeah. Yep. That’s at least 18 years of big happiness, right? Lacking. Totally falling down on the job.
Danny Lavery: I did have I realized that we said this would be sort of on the shorter side, and I’m taking us down longer and longer outs. But I was sort of curious. In some ways, this is a totally anodyne sentence, and in some ways I was sort of, I don’t know, I had a little antenna go up the second sentence of this letter. My therapist attributes this to childhood emotional neglect and authoritarian parenting on the part of my father. And I don’t mean my antenna went up in terms of this seems really, really bad. I just mean they went up in the sense that I was curious. I think sometimes when we have trouble naming things confidently on our own behalf or based on our own experience, it can show up in terms like my therapist attributes this. So it’s sort of like, Well, I didn’t say this. My therapist assistance, I’m just curious. Letter writer. Do you attribute this to childhood emotional neglect?
Danny Lavery: I don’t think this is like a huge deal I did. It made me curious. Like, do you agree with your therapist? Your therapist isn’t necessarily going to be getting to like, vote on how you understand your life. So I’m just curious, like, do you agree? Do you think that’s how you would yourself put it? And if so, is there something about saying, well, my therapist says it’s not me that makes you feel safer or more protected, that’s worth potentially investigating?
Marie Manner: Yeah, I, I like that. So I recently got a new therapist. And by reasonably, I think I mean two or maybe three years ago at this point. And she was she referred to some of my relationships and she’s like, yeah, that was abuse. And it took me a long time to feel comfortable saying, Yeah, I was abused. And I would say, Well, my therapist says this, and that was just my straw man because I agreed with it. But it took me a lot of time to kind of commit to actually saying that and agreeing with her. So that could be what this letter writer saying, too.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, I think that’s what struck me about it. Not that there’s something like wrong or bad, just that it’s always worth kind of following up with oneself, you know? What is my therapist attributes this doing for me, and is that distancing that I’m putting there on purpose? Is that because I myself am not 100% sure? You know, does part of me think that sounds plausible? But also I worry it removes too much, you know, agency from me in the present. So I want to find a different way to frame it. Does it make me worry that it’s not possible to in some ways, like heal and move on? Not in the sense of feeling great about my childhood, But I’m worried that if I stay focused on how my father kicked off some of these cycles, that I’ll just be really stuck in the beginning and I’ll never find ways to exit some of them. And so just yeah, would encourage a little curiosity on that one. And I want you to feel just really, really free to explore it or not as you see fit.
Danny Lavery: But yeah, absolutely. Have a brief conversation if you want. Make it a note. If you don’t want it to be a conversation, prepare for him to not agree with you for the rest of your life and find ways to more in that process that work through that without him. You know, I’m very much in that corner. I doubt very much that my parents or my siblings will ever fundamentally agree with the reasons that we became estranged. I don’t think there’s anything that I could do on that front to persuade them otherwise. And I sometimes really run up against a wall of I just want to believe, no, there’s something I could do or something that I could say that would get me that outcome, which is make them see things the way that I want to. Even though we haven’t spoken in years, you know.
Marie Manner: It’s tough. I don’t know. I hope there will. Yeah, I hope so, too.
Danny Lavery: I wish you the best letter writer. I’m really glad that you feel ready to be done with this relationship. He. He sounds like a really difficult and uncaring person to, you know, have even minimal contact with. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t want to talk to this guy either. So I’m right there with you.
Danny Lavery: All right. Well, with all that under our belts, I do think we can tackle our second question, which is just long as get out. So it’s going to it’s going to keep us entertained for a little while. And I just want to preface this with I’ve edited this down a lot.
Marie Manner: I’m I’m a little dying to know some of the things, only it’s already absurdly long, so I’m very glad I don’t. But if you ever want to run that past my desk and just here’s the whole thing, just so I can say, Oh my God, I’m so glad you edited that for the radio, then I’ll be into that.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. And you know, I never want to do the sort of lazy, you know, associative stereotypes of just like lesbians and Subarus and, you know, this type of queer person is like this all the time. But if this is not the most classic case of like. Lesbian over overthinking combined with like hero syndrome. I’ve ever heard that. I don’t know what it’s like. This is. Oh, no. This is like I heard from someone who’s going through a terrible time. And my first thought was, Oh, we should go out. And I just think that’s a really interesting response. And I would I would love to ask a follow up question of this letter writer, which is like, do you have a history of only becoming romantically interested in people once you found out they’ve like recently been hit by a train or fleeced by Bernie Madoff or lost their house in a fire?
Marie Manner: They’re just deeply unavailable and something.
Danny Lavery: Exclusively oriented towards rescuing someone from crisis. Yeah.
Marie Manner: Yeah. Maybe that’s that would be good things to know about this letter writer.
Danny Lavery: So the subject of this letter is unabridged high school crush. But bear in mind, I have abridged it myself. Me and my best friend from high school, Jay reconnected after seven years of almost no contact. Oh, I don’t know why didn’t pay more attention to this sentence the first time. This poor kid is 25, which really again lends a lot to this letter. This is a 25 year old. I was thinking like late twenties, early thirties and another. That’s a massive difference, but it is significantly different. Is a 25 year old. Oh, what was I hung up on romantically when I was 25.
Danny Lavery: Okay, I’ve got I’ve got a little more juice in the tank. I’ve got a little more civility. Here we go. We grew apart because I decided to quit the religion, which had been a core part of our friendship, and started opening up about my queerness. Then I got into a relationship with my high school boyfriend, which in a lot of ways replaced my relationship with Jay. A few years after leaving my church, I came out as bi. I now identify as queer slash lesbian. Coming to terms with that enabled me to admit I’d had feelings for Jay. I think my feelings for her were stronger than any other I’ve had in a romantic relationship, which feels pretty intense. I was at peace with the fact that this was all in the past. I was just glad to be able to be honest with myself.
Danny Lavery: A few years ago, Jay and I followed each other on social media. She got married to a guy around age 20 and very slowly started some low stakes interactions. A few months ago, Jay asked if I’d ever want to catch up on the phone. I said yes immediately, without even thinking about my boundaries or ways she’d hurt me in the past. On that call, Jay came out to me as queer and apologized for basically ending our friendship when I decided to leave the church and explore my sexuality. She mentioned that she and her husband were deconstructing from Christianity and mentioned that they were in an ethically non-monogamous relationship. It was really hard. On the one hand, I felt validated, but it also made me kind of spiral over what might have been without the homophobic and conservative backdrop of our Deep South evangelical community. I cried afterwards. I was happy to hear that she’s queer. I also felt like it reopened a lot of old wounds and new. I wanted to set some boundaries in our relationship going forward.
Danny Lavery: Then Jay and I both happened to be in our home town at the same time, and she asked if I wanted to get coffee. I knew it was too fast, but I agreed. When we met, Jay told me she is separating from her husband, which is pretty understandable, and then said that he had sexually assaulted her during their marriage. She doesn’t know this, but I’m a survivor too, and have done a lot of work to heal and look after myself involving getting sober, taking legal action, and repairing my relationship with my family over the years.
Danny Lavery: All I could think was that Jay has such a long journey ahead of her, and she says she’s still not ready to come out to her family or even to envision her life apart from her estranged husband. I remember thinking stuff like that myself many years ago. She has a solid plan and is making big changes, but I know how hard it’s going to be. Even with all of that. Talking to Jay makes me want to be with her again. It makes me grieve that we never got to be together as out queer people. It brings back old feelings, and it makes me start picturing a future with her. But I don’t want to be just her escape from the stuff she’s processing. And even if she is queer and mostly single, it’s still possible she might not be that into me.
Danny Lavery: What should I do? I’m really glad I reoriented around myself. Around that first.
Marie Manner: 25, I was like.
Danny Lavery: What was I doing at 25? And I was like, I’m pretty sure I was still trying to get back with my high school boyfriend for like the umpteenth time, which is not exactly the same situation as this. But I was definitely like, I could fix this if I could just inhabit my second act in my American life, which I’ve been given to understand we’re all supposed to have, which I almost certainly misquoted, by the way. It’s either there are no American acts in American lives. American acts in American lives. Why don’t you start answering this question? I’m just delivering word salad right now.
Marie Manner: I mean, I’m here for it. I’m learning very strange things about American lives. This is a this is unnecessarily long and convoluted. I kind of that there’s one thing that I keep off of kind of in the middle that I said yes immediately without even thinking about my boundaries or ways she’d hurt me in the past. So I was a little curious about what those things were, because if she hits you in the face and said, You’re queer and you cook my religion, that’s disgusting. Never speak to me again. That’s a lot worse than, I don’t know, a lot of other things. So.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, it’s a little tricky to piece together because it’s the first description of the end of their friendship. The letter writer kind of makes it sound like they just drifted apart. Or like, she even maybe kind of abandoned Jay when she got a boyfriend. But then later, it seems like what actually happened was when the letter writer started saying to Jay, I might be some kind of queer, and I don’t know that I’m into religion anymore. Jay really pulled back and ended their friendship and became kind of like cold and distant.
Marie Manner: Yeah, that’s. That’s still not as I don’t know, insanely hurtful as it could be if you if somebody is withdrawing from you. Yeah, that really sucks, especially if it’s your best friend, and especially if it’s just, Oh, I’m queer. Okay, that’s really not a relationship. And or at least it should not be. So yeah, I would be incredibly hurt by that. But is there more that’s not in the background that I don’t know.
Danny Lavery: That you know, there was more in the letter originally. I had to edit a lot of it down. I think that might have also included some like gossiping about the letter writer or like some harsh words, but certainly not like, you know, it wasn’t like she slapped me in the face in the middle of a church service or like, stole my car and like, painted Harlot all over it or something, you know? Unkind rejection, but not like prolonged hostilities or stalking or. I don’t know. I’m just listing bad things she could have done.
Marie Manner: I’m just leaving Danny. I’ll take the blame for that.
Danny Lavery: So, yeah, I mean, there’s so much here that we could start with. I think the thing that feels most sort of interesting to me right now is to just encourage this letter. Writer We do look back at this letter you’ve written and try to notice where you first mentioned having renewed feelings for Jay, because I was really struck by where that came up, because there’s all this stuff about I was a peace with the past, I was okay with it. I was okay with realizing it had really strong feelings for her.
Danny Lavery: But then basically you say she wanted to get together. I felt uncomfortable. I had already set boundaries privately with myself that I didn’t share with her. I ignored those things. I went out with her. All we talked about was her. She listed several pretty serious crises that she was going through. Now I want to be in a relationship with her. So to me that sets off so many alarm bells. It’s like I had a boundary that I didn’t share externally with anyone else that only I knew about, and then I violated it. I steamrolled right past it. And then we had a conversation where I learned a lot about her and I learned that her life is full of a lot of really serious crises right now, and that made me want to go out with her. And so just the associations of. Not that I want you to feel bad about this, but, like, you’re keeping secrets. You’re having boundaries that only exist in your head that you don’t share with other people. Then you steamroll over them. Then you hear somebody in crisis, and now you want to be in a really?
Danny Lavery: I don’t hear. We both talked non-stop and caught up back and forth. She expressed as much an interest in my life since we last spoke. As I did in hers. She’s going through some tough stuff, but also wanted to know about what I’m going through. It’s just she’s in a crisis and I want to be her girlfriend now. And none of that’s to say, Wow, you’re bad and wrong for feeling that way. You’re not allowed to be her girlfriend. Anyone you date has to be this threshold of personal growth and stability. Obviously, you’re allowed to date someone, even if they’re going through a really tough time. It just feels really striking to me that all those things were what led up to you saying and for some reason I’m just more in love with her than ever. And it’s just like I worry about that. That makes me worry for you.
Marie Manner: Yeah. Yeah. When you kind of reframe it that way. And yeah, if this person is not asking you about you, it’s not you’re not getting along super well. You’re not updating each other like crazy. It’s just tragedy after tragedy. That’s that kind of white needing is going to be really disastrous for you. Letter writer. That’s. That sounds terrible for you.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. And it’s the difference between never go out with somebody who’s like. I would never say, like, don’t go out with someone who’s talking about being sexually assaulted or even who’s going through a messy divorce. But and none of this is to say she must be a thoughtless person. It’s just there’s so much she doesn’t know about you because you haven’t shared it with her. And my my fear here is based on this letter. If you were to ask her out, I don’t think you’d share half of it with her. Oh, no. I think you’d keep most of it to yourself, like you have for years and years and years.
Marie Manner: Now, do you think that it’s a good idea for this person to try to keep being friends with this person that she’s crushing on so hard? Or should they just back away swiftly?
Danny Lavery: You know, that’s a really good question, because on the one hand, I really do want to encourage this letter writer to share. You know, it’s a little different, like with the first letter writer, with the parent relationship, especially when you have decades of an inability to listen or to think about anyone besides themselves. It’s kind of a limit to how much honesty you can offer that person that they’ll receive. And with this, I don’t necessarily think that J is like a thoughtless or a selfish person. I think J is going through a crisis right now, and people going through a crisis don’t necessarily do a ton of. But how are you?
Danny Lavery: Yes. And that’s understandable. And it sounds like J had kind of a shitty reaction to the letter writer coming out as a teenager, which is again, like, that’s not great. But it’s also like, well, you know, she was what, 15, 16, 17 at the time and also some degree of like closeted and dealing with a homophobic conservative evangelical church at the time. Like, I think she could grow past that. But my concern is that the letter writer just doesn’t want to tell her the truth, in part because they want to reenact this fantasy of like relitigating their teenage years as one that they can control and manage. And per fact, like, like it’s a video game level that you can go back and just play again and again with more and more knowledge that only you possess rather than like, you know, letter writer.
Danny Lavery: I wonder if one of the reasons you have felt more strongly towards J than your actual romantic relationships is because in your actual romantic relationships, your partners actually know you and spend time with you and have to hear about your thoughts and feelings. And Jay is this increasingly remote figure who just vanished after you started to come out? And, you know, I don’t want to, like, do too much overanalyzing of all this, but I’m just like, I was so curious. Why didn’t you say, you know, I can understand why you might not have thought about it in the moment, but why haven’t you yet shared with J.
Danny Lavery: Hey, I’m really happy for you. And it was really painful the way you treated me when I tried to come out to you in high school, which is not the same thing as you’re a monster. You ruined my high school years. I’ve never forgiven you and never will. You’re a bad person. That’s just saying you did something that hurt me. And if you can’t imagine yourself saying that to her now either, because that feels too daunting for you personally or because you think she’s going through too much to be able to hear anything that might sound like a criticism, then I do think probably that’s an indicator that you need to mostly just back away. But man, you need to tell somebody. And I don’t mean like a therapist. I think you need to tell a friend, maybe two, maybe three.
Danny Lavery: Specifically this I’ve recently reconnected with somebody who was pretty instrumental in my, like, difficult teenage life. I noticed that it was bringing up a lot of feelings to reconnect. I didn’t share that with her. I wanted to set some boundaries about taking things slow, and then I didn’t do that. And I’m telling you this now, not to give you the responsibility of keeping us apart, not to make it your job, to check in with me and tell me what to do. Like she’s chocolate and you’re telling me I need broccoli because that just again, that. Makes you more sort of like tantalizing and forbidding and like, Oh, I should do the good, responsible, boring thing, not the sexy and alluring and fun thing. But to just say, like, I’m just noticing this is a little bit of a pattern for me with her. I don’t want to tell her the truth about what’s going on with me, and I then kind of want to redeem my past self by like trying to rescue her from this life that feels like my life in some ways. A few years ago.
Marie Manner: Yeah. This. This person, Jay, is kind of you only seven years later. Which is got to hurt. You do want to save your past self from that trouble. You want to save her from her current trouble? But yeah, like Danny said, I think if you can’t say these things to her and say, Look, you really hurt me, let’s talk about that. There’s not a great future for this as an actual close friendship. But I also wonder that if you did say that to her and say, look, this really hurt me, let’s talk about this, and you do start getting into those weeds. I think it’s going to make your crush worse. So, yeah, get the therapist to get two or three friends to just kind of cry about it a little bit. It’s chocolate and the broccoli, you know, all the stuff that’s good for you. Yeah.
Danny Lavery: And yeah, not in the sense of like, tell your friends that they can restrain you or change your behavior and you can even make it clear, like, I’m not asking for you to guide me or keep me from doing anything. I just want more than me to know about this. I need more people than just myself here to know what’s going on. And I think that can be helpful. I think especially if you have a habit of withholding information from your friends or people that you’re interested in. It can feel like either I tell other people and then they become my hall monitors and they say, You’re not allowed to do X, Y, or Z because you told me about what’s going on with you, which I don’t think you have to do. And then, of course, that makes you feel like, Well, why would I tell anyone anything about me? Because then they become the killjoys who tell me what I am and am not allowed to do, as opposed to nice to let people know basics about how you’re feeling and how you’re doing so that they know you.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. And then I think that will go a long way towards making this feel less like forbidden, urgent, thrilling. Like it’s something you have to do without thinking. And yeah, you don’t have to share all of this with J. You can certainly just decide she’s going through a lot right now. I’ll occasionally check in and say, Hope you’re doing well, but we’re not going to be like having a lot of late night phone calls and baring ourselves to one another. If that changes and you do want to return more of her calls, again, that’s not forbidden. That’s not evil. That’s not wrong.
Danny Lavery: I would just really encourage you at that point to share that information with someone else. You don’t have to frame this as like, I’ve been doing something wrong. I know I shouldn’t. You can just describe it. And I would really encourage you at that point to share with her some more about your feelings about how she treated you at that point in your life. And you can make it so clear you’re not saying this to make her feel guilty or to say that she ruined your life, but just because you want her to know that that was painful for you. And if the situation were reversed, I think you would want her to say something to you so that you could offer her a meaningful apology.
Marie Manner: I hope so.
Danny Lavery: But yeah, I just think, generally speaking, if your policy is I want to set some boundaries going forward, I’ll set those boundaries in my own head and not tell anybody else, and then you roll over them. That’s definitely an indicator to not keep doing that.
Marie Manner: Yeah, something some things would change. And I think that a good first start is to just say it out loud. Like Danny said, you don’t need a hall monitor. Just. Just say it out loud to someone. Probably not to Jay.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, because I think if you can get those things in order, talk to a couple of trusted friends. Decide whether or not you want to share some of this information with Jay about how you felt when your friendship ended as high schoolers. Then the other stuff about whether or not you want to ask her out. To me, I feel much less invested, like my guesses, that if you do ask her out and you two do go out, it will implode pretty spectacularly.
Marie Manner: Professionally and quickly.
Danny Lavery: But like you’re allowed to have that, you know, that’s not against the law. And I don’t necessarily feel super invested in stopping you from trying that. My main thing is, as long as you’re talking about it with your friends, you’re open and honest about it with other people, and you shared some pretty basic emotional information about yourself with her. You know, have at it by all means, go out, go nuts, or you might do those things and kind of realize, oh, some of the bloom came off that rose. I no longer see her as this, like shining golden light at the end of the dark green light, whatever. Clearly, I don’t know. My Fitzgerald knew.
Marie Manner: The humanities person and I had.
Danny Lavery: This question.
Marie Manner: I’m just going to smile and just say it really emphatically. It’s just.
Danny Lavery: You know, you remember The Great Gatsby? Yeah. And where he’s always like, I bet if I can get Daisy to go out with me, everything’s going to be great. Oh, yeah. And then everything is not great.
Marie Manner: Yeah.
Danny Lavery: And then the end of the book is just like. Man. He really believes in that green light which was going to make everything great and it didn’t. This is a bad summary of The Great Gatsby. Please don’t take this summary too seriously.
Marie Manner: Summary is despair.
Danny Lavery: Yeah, but yeah, it’s just like whether you do or don’t go out with her is so much less important to me than whether or not you share important information and communicate boundaries outside of yourself. That’s the number one thing. And I think my guess is beyond that, if you do it, you will feel a little bit less antsy about going out with her. But even then, if you did, you’d have a much better shot of having like a slightly saner and more stable relationship than if you were just like, I’ll never let her know she’s ever hurt my feelings. We will go out so intensely for six months until she hurts my feelings about something totally unrelated, and then I get to blow up at her as if we were both 16 again. And she was just doing it to me for the first time. And then I can pull out my fucking trump card and say, And another thing, you did this when I was 16 and I never told you, but it sucked. And I’m mad and I’m using it now and I’m going to win this fight in every fight.
Danny Lavery: What do you have to say to that?
Marie Manner: Oh, just one one decade of internalized sadness and feistiness that will come out so poorly.
Danny Lavery: Just really want to stress, when I was 25, I really, really wanted to get back together with my high school boyfriend who had already gotten back together with a handful of times throughout college and post-college and did a ton of I’m not going to tell you my expectations or what I want for every time you hurt my feelings, I’m going to go cry in the bathroom about it and not tell you. So you have no idea. And then later I’m going to get really mad and blow up at you. And then for some reason, you don’t want to talk to me anymore, which is so mean. It’s just like it was the stop hitting yourself school of dating where I just kept hating myself and and eventually, eventually I was like, I think I’m going to stop hating myself and was like, Wow, maybe he wasn’t like a big, insensitive jerk. Maybe occasionally he was kind of thoughtless, and a lot of the time I was hiding all my feelings from him and then blowing up, which nobody likes.
Marie Manner: I know, and it always works so poorly now.
Danny Lavery: And yet I was just like, I better keep doing this because this is a great strategy that works really well for me and is super stable and healthy.
Marie Manner: Oh yeah. Like it’s going to work the seventh time you try it. You just needed to tweak a few things. You just needed to repress it just a little bit more. First.
Danny Lavery: It was so like in some ways I think I felt like I was Jim from the Office where like, there was this invisible documentary crew that I could see every time I was upset or crying was like, Wow, you’re so brave soldiering through this. You’re so sensitive and so brave. So there was no documentary crew filming me. Why did I think, like, why was I trying to cheat to the camera when there was no camera?
Marie Manner: So one of my one of my favorite things that I’ve adopted in the last three years maybe is just, well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions and you can substitute my for yours. And that sounds like the the consequences of your own actions. Sounds terrible.
Danny Lavery: Yeah. I’m so sorry. Like to the letter writer that, you know, her friend reacted the way that she did when they were in high school. That sounded so painful. But if you want to reconnect with her as an adult and you want to have any kind of meaningful relationship, romantic or otherwise, you do kind of have to tell her how you felt about that. And it doesn’t mean blowing up and that doesn’t mean overstating a case. It just kind of means at least one’s being pretty honest about you actually really hurt me. And I’m not saying this, that you can feel terrible for the rest of your life or because I want you to beat yourself up. But I remember this, I feel this and I want you to know so that we’re on the same page. I think otherwise, the reason that you feel so much strongly, more strongly about her than people you’ve actually gone out with.
Danny Lavery: Sure. Some of that it’s like the dream of the past and the memory of being like an excited and excitingly closeted person at 17. But a lot of that probably comes from she doesn’t know you as well as they did because you have more successfully hidden your feelings from her because you stopped having a relationship. And there’s, I think, something in that about like a control and power fantasy that might be worth looking at and can maybe someone like me a control and power fantasy. I would never. And so I don’t mean like you’re an awful controlling, power hungry person, but I think often if you have a habit of wanting to withhold information from someone you also want to be really close with. That’s a controlling power fantasy, baby. That’s what that is. That’s not that’s not you being so meek and mild. That’s you having a little fantasy where you got a little king hat on and you’re in charge and you’re doing your little wizard powers, and everybody bends to your will without even knowing it. And it’s not good. It’s not healthy.
Marie Manner: No. And it’s not going to work.
Danny Lavery: No, don’t be like me when I was 25, like me when I’m 36 and I have no problems.
Marie Manner: I bet you have just kind of a perfect, communicative, excellent life.
Danny Lavery: Photographs. Always together.
Marie Manner: That’s all I can ask for. Just so many graphs.
Danny Lavery: Of all you can ask for. Marie, thank you so much for bringing all of your wisdom onto this show, and I will definitely put out a call right now for any data related questions. If you’re listening to the show right now and you’ve ever had a question about data that also somehow like slightly corresponds to your your own personal or professional life, please, please send them in and I’ll get Marie back on the show and we will answer them.
Marie Manner: That sounds perfect. I would love to answer. I don’t know. Data questions. Sounds great.
Danny Lavery: Well, thank you again so, so much. Have a fabulous rest of your 90 degree day.
Marie Manner: Oh, thank you very much, Danny. And it looks sunnier and more delightful there. So I hope you enjoy the rest of your Wednesday as well.
Danny Lavery: Thank you for joining us on Big Mood, Little Mood with me. Danny Lavery, our producer is Phil Surkis, who also composed our theme music. Don’t miss. An episode of the show had the Slate.com slash mood to sign up, to subscribe or hit the subscribe button on whatever platform you are using right now. Thanks. Also, if you can, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. If you want more big mood, Little mood, you should join Slate Plus Slate’s membership program members get an extra episode of Big Mood Little Mood every Friday, and you’ll get to hear more advice and conversations with the guest. And as a Slate Plus member, you’ll also be supporting the show. Go to Slate.com forward slash mood plus to sign up. It’s just $1 for your first month. If you’d like me to read your letter on the show, maybe need a little advice, maybe some big advice. Head to Slate.com slash mood to find our big mood. A little mood listener question form or find a link in the description on the platform you’re using right now.
Danny Lavery: Thanks for listening. And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. I mean, one time I was like touring a rooftop garden in Queens and it was like an older group of folks. And again, like, my thought too was like, we are touring a garden rooftop. I don’t know that the tour guide needs to be asking us all our pronouns. Like, I think I tend to think there’s lots of places where probably really well-meaning people bring up pronoun asking in circumstances that are just not super necessary. Some I’ve gone to like a hair salon and they’ve they’ve asked and I’m just like, I’ll tell you, that’s fine. But also, like, it’s just going to be you and me. You’re not going to be referring to me in the third person any time in the next like 20 minutes to listen to the rest of that conversation. Join Slate Plus now at Slate.com forward slash mood.